May 25, 1916|
Habère-Lullin, Haute-Savoie, France
|Died||February 12, 1999
Hauteville-sur-Fier, Haute-Savoie, France
|Years of service||1939–1971|
|Rank||Général de brigade|
André Devigny (25 May 1916 – 12 February 1999) was a French soldier and member of the Résistance.
Devigny was a schoolteacher who joined the French Army just before the outbreak of World War II in 1939. He was part of the fighting in 1940 as an infantry and light tank officer and wounded in June. Like many officers of the French military, he became part of the anti-Nazi resistance movement after the occupation of the country. He operated in the Lyon region under the code-name Valentin. He worked with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) giving them information about the Germans by traveling to Spanish Morocco. In October 1942, he joined the resistance group known as the Gilbert Network. He became one of three commanders of the group, alongside Gilbert Groussard, its namesake, and Jean Cambus. The group helped refugees flee to Switzerland, sent information to the British via their consul in Geneva, and sabotaged German materiel.
In April 1943, Robert Moog infiltrated the group and turned several of its members over to the German authorities. Among them was Edmee Deletraz, who was then observed by the Gestapo. She was later suspected of having betrayed Jean Moulin, one of the best-known members of the French Resistance, but Devigny always defended her vehemently against this charge. After Devigny met her, he was arrested and sent to the famous prison in Fort Montluc, considered escape-proof. There he was tortured by Klaus Barbie and his men, but he gave them no valuable information. He did, however, make an unsuccessful series of attempts to escape, and was punished after each one. He was sentenced to death on 20 August 1943, the execution to be carried out on 28 August. However, Devigny discovered how to remove his handcuffs with a safety pin. He ground down a spoon on his cell's concrete floor and discovered he could remove the wooden slats at the bottom of the cell door and squeeze through the opening. At night, he was able to leave the cell and speak with other prisoners. Waiting for the perfect moment, Devigny and a companion escaped the jail on the night of 24–25 August by climbing out a skylight, using a rope made from a blanket and a mattress cover and a grappling hook created from the frame of an old lantern. In the courtyard, Devigny threw a guard to the ground and stabbed him with his own bayonet. Using the rope and the grappling hook the two inmates then swung themselves over the prison wall and were off to freedom. Eluding German search parties, he fled to Switzerland with the help of his comrades in the Resistance.
The Germans took revenge on Devigny by arresting two of his cousins and sending them to death camps. Leaving Switzerland, he went to Spain, where he was arrested again and escaped again. After re-joining the French Army, he participated in the Liberation of Alsace. After the war, President Charles de Gaulle honored him with the prestigious Cross of the Liberation. Later he was appointed a senior official in France's foreign-intelligence organization. In 1956, while serving in Algeria, Devigny wrote his memoirs publishing them under the name A Man Escaped. Robert Bresson, himself once held by the Germans as a prisoner of war, used them to make a movie of the same name. It mostly featured non-professional actors and won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. From 1964, he was involved in the secret re-organization of the French military. He retired in 1971 after President Georges Pompidou appointed Alexandre de Marenches as head of the intelligence services. He considered entering politics but decided not to "when I realized the backstabbing was far worse than anything I'd ever encountered in secret warfare." He died in 1999.
- "André Devigny alias "Valentin"". ordredelaliberation.fr. 31 January 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2012. (French)
- Johnson, Douglas: "Obituary: General Andre Devigny". The Independent. February 25, 1999.
- Goldstein, Richard (1999-02-27). "Andre Devigny, 82; Escaped Gestapo Prison". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-13.